I read Catcher in The Rye (nice review of it here) when I was a nineteen year old, full of angst and acne. I was almost convinced that this story was written especially for me. I loved it deeply and kept going back to it for months. Considering all of this, it’s surprising to me that I hadn’t read any of Salinger’s other works. Until now that is.
Nine Stories, as the title suggests is a compilation of nine short stories by Salinger. The short story is apparently his medium of choice, Catcher in the Rye being the only complete novel he wrote. I can see why, Salinger’s succinct prose and less-is-more style is ideally suited to the short story. He uses back stories sparingly and never analyses his characters (he leaves that to you).
Many of the stories in this book feature members of the fictional Glass family. The Glass family is a bunch of troubled and gifted people created by Salinger who appear in most of his short stories and novella’s. If you’ve read Franny and Zooey or Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction you would be familiar with them but it doesn’t matter really. In fact, the Glass name only ever crops up in A Perfect Day for Bananafish, it’s the back story that Salinger doesn’t bore you with. You can read more about it here.
The stories explore isolation, growing pains, spirituality and death. Death especially is almost a literary device here, appearing in the first and last story, differently but with the same smack-you-in-the-face abruptness. De Daumier Smith’s Blue Period is Salinger at his humorous best. The best known story in this book is For Esme- with Love and Squalor. My favourite however is Down at the Dinghy. It’s a powerful and intimate story and I think it really is an excellent example of Salinger’s narrative skill and the symbolisms he weaves into the most mundane scenes.
What I loved most about this book is that it doesn’t overindulge the reader. It leaves you to take from it what you will without crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s for you. Filled with equal parts hope and despair, Nine Stories is a book that you can re-read and you can read it differently each time.